The Road to Better Challenges: The Art Fag City/C-Monster Work of Art Proposal

by Paddy Johnson on July 19, 2010 · 21 comments WANGA

Who wants to see better challenges on Bravo’s reality show Work of Art? Judging by critic Jerry Saltz’ 300 plus Facebook comments on the subject, I’m guessing most of us. Prompted by this clear calling, I teamed up with Carolina A. Miranda of fame to propose a few suggestions for the Bravo Team. Should the network’s still to be announced second season follow just a few of our recommendations, we’ll be watching a much more interesting show.

Artistic Inspiration: Ellsworth Kelly
Sponsor: Winsor & Newton
It may be a painterly no-no to use paint straight from the tube, but it makes for a mighty fine reality television challenge. Artists each draw three tubes of well known paint colors — Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson, French Ultramarine amongst them — and are then required to create a work of painting or sculpture using only those colors. No blending allowed.

Artistic Inspiration: Dash Snow.
Sponsor: GlaxoSmithKline.
Two teams of artists are each sealed into rooms stocked with a Polaroid camera, 1000 issues of Artforum, a kiddie pool full of malt liquor, a skateboard and a buffet full of tranquilizers. Using these tools, each team must produce a 30-minute video set to music by an unsigned Brooklyn band. Immunity goes to whoever wakes up naked in Berlin.

Artistic Inspiration: Blu.
Sponsor: Benjamin Moore.
Supply each artist with several hundred gallons of house paint and a still camera and sneak them into an abandoned Bronx warehouse without seeking permission from the building’s owners. Whoever best incorporates nightmarish monsters into the architecture without getting charged with felony B&E wins.

Artistic Inspiration: Marina Abramovic, Vito Acconci.
Sponsor: Home Depot.
A large table is laid out with a Phillips-head screwdriver, a tattoo gun, a clown wig, a tube of hemorrhoid cream and a bedazzled tank top that reads Boricua Chula. Each artist must use at least one of these items to do a 15-minute performance, at least five minutes of which contains genital nudity. During this period, the artist takes full responsibility.

Artistic Inspiration: Walter De Maria, Robert Smithson
Sponsor: Caterpillar
Two teams of artists are dropped into the Nevada desert armed with nothing but an earth mover and a bucket of 75 SPF sunscreen. Each group is required to produce a 5-acre piece inspired by geological history dating back to the Pleistocene. Works must display a keen knowledge of drainage and will be judged on their ability to be viewed on Google Earth.

Artistic Inspiration: Matthew Barney, Claes Oldenburg
Sponsor: Ivory
Just how malleable are your materials? This exercise challenges artists to test the limitations of their materials by giving them only one to work with: soap. The first artist to attempt to float a giant bar of Ivory around the island of Manhattan will be eliminated for derivation. Claes Oldenburg proposed this very idea to Proctor and Gamble in 1972.

Artistic Inspiration: Bob Ross
Sponsor: Daniel Smith Paint Brushes
Artists must create a painting using a single tool. To kick off the challenge, a fan made of equal sized sticks is presented to the contestants. Each pulls out a hidden paint brush attached to each stick and written dimensions for the predetermined canvas size of their next work of art. One of those brushes is a fan brush; another, a 1 mm brush. The small brush receives a 30×40 inch stretcher. Artists have one day to complete this challenge.

Artist example: Sol Lewitt, Yoko Ono
Sponsor: Ikea
Following the contemporary art tradition in which artists create a set of instructions so anyone can recreate their art, this challenge asks artists to create their own art-making instructions. Once completed Bravo redistributes the instructions and artists are forced to remake their colleagues projects. This is a double elimination challenge as both the creator of the instructions and the executor of the losing work go home. Ha ha!

Artistic Example: Urs Fischer
Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard
Learn to dream Bravo. This challenge requires artists to spend copious amounts of time using technology contestants currently aren’t permitted to employ on the show: Phone, fax AND email. Artists have five days to work with manufacturers based in China to create a work and make flight arrangements to have it shipped back to Bravo studios. The most over-budget artist wins.

Artistic Inspiration: Rob Pruitt and Jack Early.
Sponsor: Old Spice.
Artists are frequently known for transforming unhip materials and subject matter into challenging artistic endeavors. Sometimes this strategy backfires and artists can be unfairly punished only to be re-evaluated years later, other times it catapults them into fame immediately. This challenges asks artists to identify the most uncool subject matter or product and breath new life into it. The winning artist for this challenge may not be identified for several years.


Giovanni July 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm

You forgot the Christoph Büchel challenge in which the contestants are invited to create a work of art so complex and expensive it is literally unaccomplishable. The loser in this challenge gets to sue Sara Jessica Parker’s production company.

Heart As Arena July 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Better? This assumes the “BRAVO team” understands the need for that word. Things are working out just fine for them. It assumes that they understand something other than character and narrative. They don’t. It also assumes that they care. They have their formula, and it is artless. It will remain so.

But, um . . . nice try?

c-mon July 19, 2010 at 3:57 pm

@giovanni: buchel, forgot buchel. we needed a challenge that involved airplane fuselage and popcorn buckets.

Molly July 19, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Love the Sol Lewitt/IKEA teamup!

heaps July 19, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Those sound like some pretty good episodes!

Colin Roe Ledbetter July 20, 2010 at 2:02 am

these are the best challenges! Bravo better do it.

ghostfuk3r July 20, 2010 at 8:24 am

Artistic inspiration: Robert Rauschenberg
Rauschenberg is famous for his ‘Erased de Kooning’. This challenge is a two parter. First; make something – anything. Second: Choose a fellow contestant’s work to erase. the best erased work of art wins. immunity goes to the artist who goes out of his/her way to punch a collector, or producer of the show in the stomach and scream “I’ve been working my ass off just for you to make that profit!”

Howard Halle July 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Jeff Koons challenge: Have “biological sculpture” (aka child) with porn star; sue for custody. The contestant with the ugliest court battle wins.

Aaron July 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Really like the suggestions posted in the main article. Would also like to see a Damien Hirst challenge (sponsored by anyone but PETA, I suppose) to make a formaldehyde sculpture. Not sure it would go over well with the network, but who really gives a shit.

Kasey Lou July 20, 2010 at 1:50 pm


nater July 20, 2010 at 3:36 pm

The Chris Burden Shoot-out challenge sponsored by Winchester. Preferably the last challenge of each season.

Saul July 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm

How about an appropriation challenge sponsored by Disney. Only the winner gets immunity from copyright infringement!

Tannar July 21, 2010 at 2:48 am

Artistic Inspiration: Art Fag City -OR- the Institution
Sponsor: Marilyn Stokstad

Groups of three to four artists are paired with one of the week’s judges to recreate a grad school scenario and turn Art Fag City’s list of better challenge suggestions into to a masterfully crafted thesis project that’s worthy of a haughty degree*. Each of the 13 hours allotted to complete the challenge will represent one week of the typical semester – shy of two that you’d ditch anyway. (That’s a lot of anxiety crammed into a short period, but hey, “the economy” and stuff…) Immunity is given to the “student” who uses words ‘concept,’ ‘transform,’ ‘juxtapose’ and ‘materiality’ the most times during the challenge. The winning group will rack up points by name dropping in the presence of their “advisor,” while the top projects will be judged on ability to appease the most people.

*Outsider artists, fear not. Bravo is not an accredited institution.

c-mon July 21, 2010 at 12:03 pm

@tannar: don’t forget “narrative,” “process” and “re-contextualize.” my favorites…

Jesse P. Martin July 21, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Artistic Inspiration: Bas Jan Ader
Sponsor: Kleenex

Art-testants will attempt to deliver the most convincing cry, sob, and/or weeping. Art-testants will then individually embark on small seafaring vessels. Whoever becomes the most tragically lost at sea wins.

BigLittleWolf @ DailyPlateOfCrazy July 22, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Love it. The challenges are at least half the problem. As for the rest. . .

Maximalism July 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Yes, Tannar and c-mon, it’s so pretentious when artists use words like “concept”, “narrative”, “transform”, etc. Y’know, words that we all had to learn in high school. What ever happened to the good old days when people just pointed at a picture and said, “Oh, pretty!”?

@tannar: don’t forget “narrative,” “process” and “re-contextualize.” my favorites…

kp July 22, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Endurance Challenge
Artistic Inspiration: On Kawara, Paul Pfeiffer
Sponsor: The nearest coffee retailer

Artists must devise a method of producing art in the slowest means possible, and create under those self-imposed rules or necessary means. Artists earn points by: not sleeping, not eating, not bathing, not socializing (in real life or via phone or internet). Judges will consider the works produced in how isolated, cramped, disillusioned, obsessive and/or self-interested the artists themselves become. At any arbitrary date, and after much deliberation the judges allow the winner to go home with the cash prize. Those who do not win are not informed that the competition has been called off.

c-mon July 23, 2010 at 11:42 am

@maximalism: i don’t have an issue with the words themselves. what i have an issue with is the beaten-to-death cliches that they have become — often used in copious combination with other tropes to obfuscate a general lack of clear thinking.

Kenny Goering July 29, 2010 at 3:34 pm

This show has been a big disappointment to me. None of the results have had any thing to do with the challenges. Except for the book cover one. Why do they make the artists try to work together? Artists are people with their own styles and ideas; that is what makes art interesting. It seems to me to be a “show boat thing” for the critics.
Just give the award to Miles as it seems to be what the critics have in their minds. I don’t believe sex is all that shocking these days either.
Having used some great live nude models I am not too impressed with pictures of yourself that are then painted.

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